EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) - - The downward spiral for the UTEP Miners continued Saturday night at the Sun Bowl.
UTEP lost their third game in row after falling to the UNLV Rebels by a final score of 45-28.
Both teams entered the game without some of their stars.
UNLV’s starting QB in Doug Brumfield, who was injured during last weeks game, didn’t suit up. Meanwhile for the Miners, leading receiver Tyrin Smith was out and running back Mike Franklin also didn’t play.
The Miners had a nightmare start.
On their opening drive of the game Josh Sloan’s punt was blocked and recovered by UNLV to the 12-yard line.
The Rebels needed just one play from there to find the end zone off a Jai'Den Thomas run.
Miners would answer immediately going 80-yards on 10 plays, including a 4th and 1 conversion, before Gavin Hardison punched it in from 1-yard out to tie the game up at 7.
It was the first drive that ended in a touchdown for the starting offense in 21 attempts, dating back to their opening drive against Northwestern.
But UNLV only needed three plays to score again. Thomas would run it in for his second touchdown of the night.
On 4th and 3, Tyrice Knight made a massive stop to give UTEP the ball back. Miners struggled to get things going on offense with Hardison being sacked on both 2nd and 3rd down but they got a new set of downs after Sloan got a penalty on his punt for being ruffed.
Miners go 57-yards on the drive with Hardison punching it in from 1-yard out to tie it at 14 with 5:11 left in the half.
UNLV once again bouncing back quickly to retake the lead. This time QB Jayden Maiava hit WR Ricky White for a 53-yard gain to the 1 yard line. And Donavyn Lester went in untouched form one yard out. Rebels go up 21-14 with 3:18 left.
UTEP weren’t able to answer back and instead Hardison was picked off by Cameron Oliver.
Off the back of the INT, UNLV started the drive on the 33-yard line and scored easily off another Thomas run for his third touchdown of the game.
In the first half Hardison was sacked four times and picked off once.
The score at the half saw the Miners down 14 points, 28-14.
In the third quarter, the Miners came out swinging scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the second half.
UTEP running back Torrance Burgess Jr. found pay dirt after an 11-yard touchdown run.
UNLV's lead was cut to 28-21.
But in the 4th quarter, the Rebels answered back with a one-yard touchdown run by Thomas, his third touchdown of the game.
UNLV's lead was back to 14, 35-21.
UTEP's offense did their job to keep pace scoring a touchdown on their ensuing possession.
Hardison threw a 27 yard touchdown strike to wide receiver, Jeremiah Ballard.
That once again cut UNLV's lead to seven, 35-28.
It was then on UTEP's defense to try and hold UNLV from scoring anymore points, but the Rebels always had an answer.
UNLV would cap off their next drive with a touchdown courtesy of a 32-yard touchdown run by UNLV running back Courtney Reese.
UNLV would extend their lead, 42-28.
The Rebels would tack on a field goal late in the 4th quarter to go up 45-28.
UTEP's overall record falls to 1-4 on the season.
That puts an end to UTEP's non-conference schedule as they will now prepare to return to Conference USA play when they host Louisiana Tech Friday night at the Sun Bowl.
Kickoff for Friday's game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.